Military Occupation and Women's Activism in Kashmir
- PUBLISHED: June 2019
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / South Asia, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 288 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 10 b&w illus., 1 map
- SERIES: Decolonizing Feminisms
- ISBN: 9780295744995
In Kashmir’s frigid winter a woman leaves her door cracked open, waiting for the return of her only son. Every month in a public park in Srinagar, a child remembers her father as she joins her mother in collective mourning. The activist women who form the Association of the Parents of the Disappeared Persons (APDP) keep public attention focused on the 8,000 to 10,000 Kashmiri men disappeared by the Indian government forces since 1989. Surrounded by Indian troops, international photojournalists, and curious onlookers, the APDP activists cry, lament, and sing while holding photos and files documenting the lives of their disappeared loved ones. In this radical departure from traditionally private rituals of mourning, they create a spectacle of mourning that combats the government’s threatening silence about the fates of their sons, husbands, and fathers.
Drawn from Ather Zia’s ten years of engagement with the APDP as an anthropologist and fellow Kashmiri activist, Resisting Disappearance follows mothers and “half-widows” as they step boldly into courts, military camps, and morgues in search of their disappeared kin. Through an amalgam of ethnography, poetry, and photography, Zia illuminates how dynamics of gender and trauma in Kashmir have been transformed in the face of South Asia’s longest-running conflict, providing profound insight into how Kashmiri women and men nurture a politics of resistance while facing increasing military violence under India.
Authors & Contributors
Ather Zia is assistant professor of anthropology and gender studies at the University of Northern Colorado. She is the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit, an online journal of Kashmiri and diaspora writing, and the cofounder of Critical Kashmir Studies, an interdisciplinary network of scholars working on the Kashmir region.
This theoretically sophisticated and politically powerful book marks a groundbreaking moment in the anthropological study of Kashmir and South Asia that will also make an excellent text in undergraduate and graduate seminar on various themes and topics.- New Books in Islamic Studies (NBN)
By focusing on the embodiment of kinship ties and mobilization of ritual that sustain those left behind, Resisting Disappearance sensitively shows how the political reality of ongoing occupation transforms everyday lives. Ather Zia’s compelling book will be of interest to students of militarization, occupation and colonization, gender politics and kinship, ritual, everyday life, and activism, at all levels.- Political and Legal Anthropology Review
Powerful and poetic, this ethnography elucidates the effects of political violence on everyday life in Kashmir while presenting a profoundly original analysis of women’s organizing and political expression. Zia deftly weaves women’s intimate experiences of personal loss within a larger tapestry of history, politics, and culture. She reveals women as agents of change who challenge existing concepts of gender, sexuality, and rights even as they draw upon their identities as mothers and wives and their ritual roles in weddings and funerals. Beautifully written and moving, this book will have an effect on all who read it.- Victoria Bernal, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
Extreme violence has disfigured life in Kashmir for over three decades. Ather Zia’s Resisting Disappearance is an empathetic and deeply political demonstration of the many ways in which Kashmiri women suffer, mourn, and memorialize those they have lost. It is also, crucially, an account of the creativity with which these women have—within the constraints of state and local power—fought back.- Suvir Kaul, author of Of Gardens and Graves: Kashmir, Poetry, Politics
Powerful and poetic, this ethnography elucidates the effects of political violence on everyday life in Kashmir while presenting a profoundly original analysis of women’s organizing and political expression. Zia deftly weaves women’s intimate experiences of personal loss within a larger tapestry of history, politics, and culture. She reveals women as agents of change who challenge existing concepts of gender, sexuality, and rights even as they draw upon their identities as mothers and wives and their ritual roles in weddings and funerals. Beautifully written and moving, this book will have an effect on all who read it.- Victoria Bernal, author of Nation as Network: Diaspora, Cyberspace and Citizenship
This is a work that explores the upending violence in Kashmir with courage, composure, and uncompromising solidarity. In describing the human toll of the conflict upon “half-widows” and the families that continue to search for disappeared sons, brothers, fathers, and husbands, Ather Zia renders the brutality of the occupation of Kashmir without sentimentality. Yet poetry and poetic voice are also central to her ethnography in a way that underscores the layered histories of lament and women’s deployment of it as a form of both protest and mourning. The stories Zia shares with her readers are a telling corrective to much of the academic literature on Kashmir which locates the region as a pawn in larger power politics, but rarely gives us a sense of how Kashmiris themselves confront multiple levels of violence by state security forces and militants on both sides of the border, movements for self-determination, and their own aspirations for azaadi, or freedom.- Kamala Visweswaran, author of Un/common Cultures: Racism and the Rearticulation of Cultural Difference